Donald R. Young, Ph.D.
Professor and chair

Jennifer K. Stewart
Associate professor and director of graduate studies

biology.vcu.edu

The Department of Biology offers programs leading to baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees; the doctoral degree is offered through the Ph.D. in Integrative Life Sciences program. Students may specialize within many areas, such as molecular and cellular biology, genetics, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, systematics, physiology, neurobiology, and developmental biology. Students also may develop an interdisciplinary focus to their degree program, for example within areas such as bioinformatics, cancer biology, forensic science and environmental science.

In addition to the courses offered by the Department of Biology, graduate students may enroll in graduate courses offered through VCU Life Sciences and these departments in the VCU School of Medicine: Anatomy and Neurobiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biostatistics, Human and Molecular Genetics, Microbiology and Immunology, Pathology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Physiology and Biophysics. Visit the Department of Biology’s website at biology.vcu.edu.

 

BIOL   502. Microbial Biotechnology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: MICR/BIOC   503 or BIOC   530, 531, 532 and 533 or equivalent, and MICR/BIOC   504 or equivalent. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. Discussion of the application of basic principles to the solution of commercial problems. The course will cover the historical principles in biotransformations as related to primary and secondary metabolism, as well as recombinant DNA technology and monoclonal antibodies and products resulting from the application of recombinant DNA technology.

BIOL   503. Fish Biology. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture and 3 laboratory hours. 4 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   317 or equivalent. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. Classification, behavior, physiology and ecology of fishes. Laboratories will emphasize field collection of fish and identification of specimens.

BIOL   507. Aquatic Microbiology. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 4 laboratory hours. 4 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL   303 and 307 or equivalents. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. This course will involve a practical approach to the methods used to culture, identify and enumerate specific microorganisms that affect the cycling of elements in aquatic systems and those that affect or indicate water quality.

BIOL   508. Barrier Island Ecology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   317 or equivalent, or permission of instructor. A study of the physical factors affecting the formation of barrier islands, adaptations of plants and animals for colonization and persistence in these harsh environments, and how coastal ecological processes conform to general ecological theory. Examples and problems pertaining to Virginia and the southeastern United States are emphasized.

BIOL   509. Microbial Ecology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   317 or equivalent with a grade of C or better. Open only to qualified seniors and graduate students. Explores the interactions of microorganisms and their environment, including discussion of microbial diversity, nutrient cycling, symbiosis and selected aspects of applied microbiology.

BIOL   510. Conservation Biology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. Explores the accelerated loss of species due to increasing human population pressure and the biological, social and legal processes involved in conserving biodiversity.

BIOL   512. Plant Diversity and Evolution. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture and 4 laboratory hours. 4 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL   300 and 310 or equivalents, or permission of instructor. Taxonomy, diversity and evolutionary history of vascular plants (including ferns, gymnosperms and flowering plants). Lecture emphasis on evolutionary relationships; laboratory emphasis on plant recognition and identification, especially of the Virginia flora, including some field trips to areas of local botanical interest.

BIOL   514. Stream Ecology. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture and 3 laboratory hours. 4 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   317. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. A study of the ecology of streams and rivers. Laboratory emphasis is on the structure and functioning of aquatic communities in mountain to coastal streams.

BIOL   516. Population Genetics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: STAT/BIOS   543. Theoretical and empirical analyses of how demographic and evolutionary processes influence neutral and adaptive genetic variation within populations. Crosslisted as: HGEN   516.

BIOL   518. Plant Ecology. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture and 2 laboratory hours. One three-day field trip is required. 4 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   317. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. A lecture, field and laboratory course concerned with the development, succession and dynamics of plant communities and their interrelations with climate, soil, biotic and historic factors.

BIOL   520. Population Ecology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL   310 and BIOL   317 or permission of instructor. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. Theoretical and empirical analysis of processes that occur within natural populations, including population genetics, population growth and fluctuation, demography, evolution of life history strategies and interspecific interactions. Quantitative models will be used extensively to explore ecological concepts.

BIOL   521. Community Ecology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL   317 or equivalent. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. Theoretical and empirical analysis of the structure and function of natural communities, ecosystems and landscapes.

BIOL   522. Evolution and Speciation. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   310 or equivalent. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. Evolutionary principles, with emphasis on genetic and environmental factors leading to changes in large and small populations of plants and animals, and the mechanisms responsible for speciation.

BIOL   524. Endocrinology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL   300 and CHEM   301-302 and CHEZ 301L, 302L or equivalent. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. Hormonal control systems at the organ, tissue and cellular level. Although the major emphasis will be on vertebrate endocrine systems, some discussion of invertebrate and plant control systems will be covered.

BIOL   530. Human Genetics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. Provides a comprehensive examination of the fundamentals of human genetics. Explores topics including Mendelian and non-Mendelian inheritance, pedigree analysis, cytogenetics, aneuploid syndromes, cancer, gene structure and function, epigenetics, gene expression, biochemical genetics and inborn errors of metabolism. Crosslisted as: HGEN   501.

BIOL   532. Water Pollution Biology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL   317 or equivalent and one year of general chemistry. A study of various forms of pollution in aquatic environments, including the basic principles and effects of water pollution on aquatic organisms and ecosystems, ecotoxicology, waterborne pathogens, invasive species, water pollution monitoring and environmental laws.

BIOL   535. Wetlands Ecology. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture and 3 laboratory hours. 4 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   317 or equivalent or permission of instructor. A study of the ecology of freshwater and coastal wetlands, including the physical and biological aspects of these systems, wetland functions at local, landscape and global scales, and wetland regulations and restoration. Students will acquire skills with analytical techniques used in laboratory settings and in field-based applications for purposes of identifying and delineating wetland ecosystems.

BIOL   540. Fundamentals of Molecular Genetics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   310 or consent of instructor. The basic principles and methodologies of molecular biology and genetics are applied to genome organization, replication, expression, regulation, mutation and reorganization. Emphasis will be placed on a broad introduction to and integration of important topics in prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems. Crosslisted as: BNFO   540.

BIOL   541. Laboratory in Molecular Genetics. 2 Hours.

Semester course; 1 lecture and 4 laboratory hours. 2 credits. Pre- or corequisite: BIOL   540 Fundamentals of Molecular Genetics or equivalent. Experiments are designed to apply advanced techniques and concepts of molecular biology and genetics using prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems. Emphasis will be placed on experimental design, integrating results throughout the semester, making use of relevant published literature, scientific writing and providing hands-on experience with advanced equipment and methodologies. Crosslisted as: BNFO   541.

BIOL   545. Biological Complexity. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 2 laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: physics and calculus, or permission of instructor. Open only to graduate students and qualified seniors. An introduction to the basis of complexity theory and the principles of emergent properties within the context of integrative life sciences. The dynamic interactions among biological, physical and social components of systems are emphasized, ranging from the molecular to ecosystem level. Modeling and simulation methods for investigating biological complexity are illustrated. Crosslisted as: LFSC   510.

BIOL   548. Bioinformatic Technologies. 2 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture hours. 2 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   545/LFSC   510 or permission of instructor. Introduction to the hardware and software used in computational biology, proteomics, genomics, ecoinformatics and other areas of data analysis in the life sciences. The course also will introduce students to data mining, the use of databases, meta-data analysis and techniques to access information. Crosslisted as: LFSC   520.

BIOL   550. Ecological Genetics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. Introduces the principles of ecological genetics, especially those with foundations in population and quantitative genetics, and illustrates conceptual difficulties encountered by resource stewards who wish to apply genetic principles. Explores various types of biological technologies employed by conservation geneticists and provides means for students to gain experience in analyzing and interpreting ecological genetic data.

BIOL   560. Conservation Medicine. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Introduces students to key elements of wildlife diseases, zoonoses, emerging infectious diseases associated with wildlife and humans, and both the conservation and health impacts of these topics. Included are discussions of the interactions among environmental quality and wildlife and human diseases and health. Topics include diseases of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, the effects of environmental contaminants and climate on those diseases, and their interaction with human health.

BIOL   565. Advances in Cell Signaling. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   300 or equivalent. Topical course focusing on advances in cellular communication by cytokines, hormones and neurotransmitters. Each semester, the course focuses on a different topic. Past topics have included cancer biology, allergy and asthma, and autoimmunity.

BIOL   580. Eukaryotic Biotechnology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL   310 and BIOZ 310L, or graduate standing in biology or related fields. Open to qualified seniors and graduate students only. Discussion of principles, concepts, techniques, applications and current advances in cellular and molecular biology aspects of biotechnology for animal and plant cells. The course will cover molecular construction of foreign genes; DNA cloning; technologies for DNA, RNA and protein analyses; nonvector and vector-mediated genetic transformation; gene regulation in transgenic cells; cell and tissue culture; cell fusion; and agricultural, medical and other industrial applications.

BIOL   591. Special Topics in Biology. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; 1-4 credits. An in-depth study of a selected topic in biology. See the Schedule of Classes for specific topics to be offered each semester and prerequisites. If several topics are offered, students may elect to take more than one.

BIOL   601. Integrated Bioinformatics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Presents major concepts in bioinformatics through a series of real-life problems to be solved by students. Problems addressed will include but not be limited to issues in genomic analysis, statistical analysis and modeling of complex biological phenomena. Emphasis will be placed on attaining a deep understanding of a few widely used tools of bioinformatics. Crosslisted as: BNFO   601.

BIOL   606. Quantitative Ecology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Principles and applications of mathematical ecology at the community level, including experimental design; sampling techniques, assumptions and limitations; and the use of cluster analysis, gradient analysis and ordination to evaluate, summarize and compare large data sets.

BIOL   610. Conservation Applications. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Covers the implementation of conservation techniques including monitoring, planning, education, habitat management and combining conservation with human development strategies. Focuses on how to make conservation work where biodiverstiy and human livelihoods must be reconciled. Students will utilize a number of computer programs to analyze and interpret management strategies.

BIOL   618. Ecosystems Ecology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   317 or equivalent or permission by instructor. Introduction to the structure and functioning of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. The course complements other offerings in the graduate program by considering ecological processes at higher orders of organization and in the context of abiotic factors. Students will gain discipline-specific knowledge through lectures and readings while building quantitative and critical thinking.

BIOL   626. Physiological Ecology. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 4 lecture hours. 4 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL   317 or equivalent. This course examines the physiological adjustments and adaptations made by organisms in response to their environment.

BIOL   630. Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A comprehensive ecological and evolutionary study of specializations and adaptive radiation in mammalian reproductive anatomy, the reproductive cycle, seasonality of reproduction and factors affecting litter size and developmental state of neonates. Human reproductive biology is included when pertinent.

BIOL   640. Evolution and Molecular Markers. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Methodologies and applications of molecular biology as they pertain to the study of evolution, with a focus on systematics, speciation and biogeography. The course provides proficiency in the understanding, interpretation and choice of appropriate molecular markers for evolutionary research, with particular attention to current methods and recent literature. Designed to benefit students of both natural history (ecologists, systematics, evolutionary biologists) and molecular biology.

BIOL   650. Conservation Genetics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Covers the application of molecular genetics to biodiversity conservation. Essential topics include molecular measures of genetic diversity, estimating loss of genetic diversity in small populations, detecting inbreeding, resolution of taxonomic uncertainties, genetic management of T&E species, captive breeding and reintroduction. Students will utilize a number of computer programs to analyze and interpret molecular genetic data.

BIOL   654. Environmental Remote Sensing. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: ENVS   602, or permission of the instructor. This course provides a basic and applied understanding on the use of digital remote sensor data to detect, identify and characterize earth resources. Students are required to demonstrate an understanding of the spectral attributes of soils, vegetation and water resources through various labs involving both image- and non-image-based optical spectral data. Crosslisted as: ENVS   654/URSP   654.

BIOL   660. Developmental Biology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: biochemistry or cell biology or their equivalent. Molecular and cellular principles of developmental biology in model systems, including flies, worms, fish and mammals. Understanding of morphogen gradients, transcription, cell movements and signaling in development. Advanced methods are taught enabling students to interpret and present findings from the primary literature.

BIOL   676. Plant and Animal Cell Biology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: biochemistry or cell biology or permission of instructor. Molecular and cellular principles of cell behavior and function in plant and animal cells. Topics include intracellular transport, cell cycle control, signaling and cell motility. Advanced methods are taught enabling students to interpret and present findings from the primary literature in this field.

BIOL   690. Biology Seminar. 1 Hour.

Semester course; 1 credit. May be repeated for credit. Presentations by faculty and visiting lecturers, and discussions of research and developments in biology and related fields. Graded as S/U/F.

BIOL   691. Special Topics in Biology. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-4 credits. An advanced study of a selected topic in biology. See the Schedule of Classes for specific topics to be offered each semester and prerequisites. If several topics are offered, students may elect to take more than one.

BIOL   692. Independent Study. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; hours to be arranged. Credits to be arranged. Determination of the amount of credit and permission of instructor, adviser and department chair must be obtained prior to registration for this course. A course designed to provide an opportunity for independent research in any area of biology outside the graduate student thesis area.

BIOL   693. Current Topics in Biology. 1 Hour.

Semester course; 1 lecture hour. 1 credit. May be repeated for credit. Designed to develop skills in preparing and delivering oral presentations in conjunction with an in-depth study of a current topic in biology. Students present talks and lead discussions on the selected topic.

BIOL   698. Thesis. 1-16 Hours.

Semester course; hours to be arranged. Credits to be arranged. Independent research by students in areas of systematics, environmental, developmental, behavioral, cellular and molecular biology, and comparative physiology.